According to a report released by the United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, Islamic State fighters have begun specifically targeting the children of families attempting to flee areas under ISIS control.
As SOFREP has reported on in the past, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has been utilizing a strategy of herding civilians into their territory to serve not only as human shields, but to guarantee coalition air strikes result in civilian casualties, thus increasing critical pressure on the United States and partnered nations on the world’s geopolitical stage. In order to ensure the civilian population does not flee ISIS controlled portions of Mosul in Iraq and the defacto ISIS capital of Raqqa in Syria, extremist snipers have been shooting civilians and leaving their bodies in the streets – ensuring other civilians can see what will happen to them if they try to escape the fighting.
As many as 160 civilians were reportedly killed in just one day in Mosul earlier this month, as ISIS fighters killed men, women, and children while they attempted to escape to portions of the city under the control of Iraqi Security Forces. Now, according to UN reports, ISIS fighters have taken to specifically targeting the children of these fleeing families, as a way to deter others from attempting to follow suit.
“They are using children as a weapon of war to prevent people from fleeing,” said UNICEF’s Iraq representative Peter Hawkins. “This just highlights how indiscriminate and catastrophic this war is.”
According to UNICEF, 1,075 Iraqi children have been killed and 1,130 have been wounded since the Islamic State took control of nearly one-third of Iraq in 2014. In just the past six months, 152 children have been killed and 255 injured as Iraqi Security Forces close in on the remaining pockets of the terrorist organization still holed up in Western Mosul.
“The country’s future security and economic strength is determined by what is happening to its children today,” Hawkins said.
According to Hawkins, being killed by ISIS or as collateral damage in a coalition air strike are not the only risks faced by children in Mosul, as at least 231 children under the age of 18 have been forcefully recruited by ISIS or ISIS-tied militant groups in recent months out of the embattled city.
The United States and coalition allies have taken criticism in recent months from human rights groups for the reportedly high number of civilian casualties resulting from air strikes intended to support ground forces in Iraq and Syria engaged in the fighting with the Islamic State. These criticisms often don’t acknowledge the ISIS strategy of using civilian lives to attempt to dissuade the West from supporting the ongoing anti-ISIS effort in the Middle East. In short, ISIS continues to hope to make fighting them unpalatable by increasing civilian death tolls, waning support within the general population.
This latest report from UNICEF that ISIS has now taken to specifically target children, while horrific, may be indicative of their impending defeat, as Iraqi Security Forces have liberated all but about ten square kilometers of the city at this point. U.S. commanders have called ISIS’ defeat in Iraq “inevitable,” and the extremists in the area may be growing desperate – desperate enough to use snipers to kill children attempting to flee their control.
Image courtesy of the Associated Press